• <More on Intel.com


Invisible Invaders, Amazing Allies

factory haze

Unit Summary

The students are introduced to the world of microbes by doing research and working on different lab activities. Using the Showing Evidence Tool, they dig deeper into understanding the role microbes play in our lives. Using the Seeing Reason Tool, they study the cause and effect of microbial diseases and epidemic outbreak. Armed with this knowledge, they role-play as microbiologists and in teams collaborate with community health center of the nearby villages to conduct interviews with doctors, village leaders and carry out in-depth investigation on occurrence of common diseases. They analyse the mode of transmission, symptoms, medication and control measures for reducing disease outbreak. As a culminating activity, the junior microbiologists spread scientific awareness among villagers about the measures to be taken to control the spread of microbial diseases through a multimedia presentation.

Curriculum-Framing Questions

  • Essential Question
    Can our friends be our foes?
  • Unit Questions
    How can I contribute to improving health conditions in my neighbouring villages?
    Are microbes a boon or bane?
  • Content Questions
    What are microbes?
    What are the different kinds of microbes?
    How do microbes grow and reproduce?
    What are the disease causing microorganisms?
    What are the main causes of epidemic out break?

Assessment Plan
View how a variety of student-centered assessments are used in the 'Microbes - Invisible Invaders, Amazing Allies' unit plan. These assessments help students and teachers set goals; monitor student progress; provide feedback; assess thinking, processes, performances, products; and reflect on learning throughout the learning cycle.

Instructional Procedures
Background Information

Microbes are the foundation of life on earth. Microbes are one-celled to few-celled organisms. Microbes have an important place in ecosystems. They are makers and destroyers, promoting health and causing diseases. They are vital to the environment, as they participate in the earth's bio-chemical cycles.

Prior to the Unit
Before starting the unit, prepare the following materials for effective implementation of the unit:

  • Provide journals for each student to reflect on and respond to activities and questions throughout the unit.
  • Prepare a list of websites and make sure that the websites are active.
  • Contact the two nearby villages for the students to conduct their survey and carry out the awareness campaign.
  • Set-up the Showing Evidence Tool and the Seeing Reason Tool workspace.
  • Prepare the self direction checklist, research rubric, debate rubric and debate guidelines to be used during the project.
  • Prepare the 2 data sheets to be used during the field trips.
  • Prepare the rubric to evaluate the student multimedia presentations.

Introducing the Unit – Stage 1
Begin the unit by introducing the Essential Question – Can our friends be our foes?. Have students discuss the question as a whole group, sharing examples from their lives, from literature and from history (story of Julius Caesar). Get students to recall incidents where friends have turned into foes and write out the reasons for the same in their journal (doc). Post this exercise, get the students to share their journal entries and promote an engaging discussion in the classroom.

After the discussion introduce them to microbes which are sometimes considered as friends and sometimes as foes by human beings. Tell them that in the upcoming unit they will be undertaking a journey into the world of microbes. Introduce the title of the project – Microbes – Amazing Allies, Invisible Invaders and promise them an exciting trip into the world of microbes. Share with the students the self direction checklist (doc). Discuss with the students the key skills for working on the project effectively. Speak about traits such as setting goals, monitoring and evaluating progress, assuming responsibility and taking the lead and initiating actions.

Following this introduction, start the unit with a whole class discussion on simple thought provoking questions like:

  • Why do we keep food in fridge?
  • Why should we wash the kitchen table and wash basin with Dettol?
  • How does milk turn to curd?
  • Why do we develop fever and joint pains and other diseases?

Prompt students to think about the above questions. Allow students time to write their thoughts in their journals. Have students share their examples and thoughts in pairs. Turn the discussion back to the whole group and have individual pairs share what they have discussed. As the whole group discussion takes place, keep noting down points to assess students’ basic understanding of the topic. End the session sharing that microbes are the foundation of life on earth.
Following the discussion, display to the students a big poster containing Content Questions:

  • What are microbes?
  • What are the different kinds of microbes?
  • How do microbes grow and reproduce?
  • What are the disease causing microorganisms?

Get the students to understand that they need to find the answers to the questions displayed by conducting research. Share the research rubric (doc) with the students and explain each criteria of the rubric. Provide the list of websites (doc) to the students on the various topics related to microbes (microbial diseases, uses of microbes to man, microscopic studies on microbes, microbes and environmental interactions). Encourage students to conduct research to gain adequate knowledge on microbes so as to enable them to move forward in this project with confidence.

Provide time for students to conduct research. Instruct students to note down their learnings in journals. Following this research exercise, arrange for a science laboratory session for students. Make students examine microbes using microscopes. Have students enter the observations and sketches in their journals.

Encourage students to note reflections in their journals at the end of each day while conducting research and doing the lab work. Review student journals and add comments. Post these activities, divide students in groups to share their research work. As a culmination of the research and the lab activity, conduct a class quiz contest. Divide the class into 4 groups keeping in mind the abilities of the students. Conduct an oral quiz contest to test the knowledge gathered while carrying out the research work. Award star stickers to the winning team.

Using Showing Evidence – Stage 2
Introduce the students to the Showing Evidence Tool by using the tutorial at http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/education/k12/thinking-tools/showing-evidence/try-the-tool.html. Share with students how to gather and rate evidences, make and evaluate claims. Discuss with students the importance of including evidence that opposes the claim in order to truly evaluate the claim. If students have not had any experience in making claims and providing evidence, a demonstration with the whole class may help them get started.

A step-by-step demonstration can help students access and use this tool effectively. For example, show students how to make a claim and then have them make one on their own; show them how to create and link evidence, then have them try.

Discuss with students the qualifiers that should be for rating the quality of evidence, the strength of the evidence and also for evaluating a claim. Come to a class agreement about these and post so that students have something to refer to when rating the quality and strength of evidence.

Have students login to their Showing Evidence student workspace. Point out the prompt that guides their work: Are Microbes a boon or a bane? Ask students to make their claims and provide appropriate evidences to back their claim. As students are working on supporting their claim use the comments feature within Showing Evidence or small group discussion to give feedback, redirect effort, suggest new avenues of study, or ask for clarification about a team’s thinking. The following are some areas you might consider for facilitating student learning:

  • Listen to the arguments among students, their reason for supporting the claim and ask for explanation from student groups why they feel some of the evidences are stronger than the other ones.
  • Prompt students to write explanation for evidence and ranking the evidence.
  • Ask students to quote the resource and validate the authenticity of the resource.
  • After students complete collecting sufficient evidences for supporting their claim, ask students to support their evidence for making the claim.

Once students complete the initial research, use the teacher workspace in Showing Evidence to assign each group a peer group to review. Peer review groups will read and evaluate the claims of the groups assigned to them, using the qualifiers that are posted in the room and will make constructive comments and connections where needed to the claims and evidence. Students can comment on the work by requesting clarification of evidence, point out where claims are unclear, where facts or assumptions are questionable and correcting distortions of opposing points of view.

Examine the Showing Evidence Activity
The Showing Evidence Tool space below represents one team's investigation in this project.

Project Name: Microbes – Amazing Allies, Invisible Invaders
Prompt: Are microbes a boon or a bane?
Showing Evidence Activity - Microbes

Prepare for the Debate
As a last step of using the Showing Evidence Tool, get the students to use the conclusion area to answer the question of the case. Following this, set up a class debate session. Share information on debate roles and rules using the debate guidelines sheet (doc). Make connections with the outcome of using the Showing Evidence tool and organising arguments for debate and planning strategies. Pass out and discuss the debate rubric (doc) to share your expectations. As students start preparing for the debate revisit the Essential Question Can our friends be our foes?. Encourage students to think of their claim and connect it to the Essential Question.

Allow students to join groups based on their claims, make plans and gather ideas. Get the students in teams to review the rubric and guideline sheet and assess their own preparations. Circulate through the room and assist them as they prepare for the debate. Encourage students to refer to all of their collected information as they make points and structure their arguments.

Begin the class debate and remind students of the criteria for their presentations; structure student debates so that students’ turn-taking flows smoothly. While debating on the class stage, encourage student groups to cite examples from their showing evidence workspace and articulate their evidences for their respective claims. As students present their positions, assess their work using the debate rubric. When the debates are completed, invite classmates to provide others with verbal feedback. Conclude the debate by declaring whether the microbes are a boon or bane based on the outcome of the debate. Provide students with an opportunity to revisit their claim and adjust their thoughts based on what they have learned. Have students write down their thoughts in their journal. Discuss with students their journal entries and highlight the main reasons for people to consider microbes as a bane. Get students to analyse and bring their attention to focus on the different diseases caused by the microbes.

Getting Deeper – Stage 3
To facilitate exploration and discussion, share with the students newspaper cuttings and magazine clippings reporting outbreak of microbial diseases across the country. Hold discussions in the classroom about the different microbial diseases and share that many contagious diseases like common cold, viral infections, malaria, cholera, typhoid etc in the community can be prevented and reduced by following simple hygienic living conditions. Caution the students about the need to control the outbreak and explain to them that if unchecked, microbial diseases can break into epidemics involving large geographical areas.

Hold a classroom brainstorming session on the cause and effect of microbial disease outbreak. To provoke higher order thinking, ask appropriate questions and drive the discussion to address the Research Question - What are the main causes of epidemic out break?.

Ask students to do more research keeping in mind the following questions, which would help them make connections with the cause and effect of epidemic outbreak.

  • Deadly effect of the epidemics... How many people died?
  • What effect it had on daily life? Etc.
  • What caused diseases to outbreak?
  • How did the outbreak convert into an epidemic?
  • What conditions influenced faster spread of the disease?
  • How did the disease spread from one geographical area to other geographical area?
  • What measures did the local health department and state government take to reduce and control the epidemic?
  • What steps were taken by locals, villagers as a preventive measure?
  • What vaccinations and medicines were used to control outbreak?
  • What steps were taken by local health department to control vectors? (disease carriers, like mosquitoes, rodents etc)

Demonstrate the Seeing Reason Tool and allow the students to explore the tool on http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/education/k12/thinking-tools/seeing-reason/try-the-tool.html.

Give each team their login information and ask them to respond to the question, What are the main causes for the epidemic outbreak?. Have students visit the websites and review reference materials to include factors and relationships. Move round the room as students develop the casual maps and prompt students to discuss and write valid reasons and evidence for each casual relationship. Have students work with each other during the mapping.

As students build their maps interact with student groups and ask them to explain their maps. Use the following questions with the groups to extend their thinking about their map and refocusing their thoughts on the research question:

  • What other factors relate to this one?
  • What is your evidence for the relationship that you show between the factors?
  • Do you think human activities contribute to spread of diseases?
  • Is it essential to take preventive measures in areas where disease has not been reported?
  • What would you have done to keep your surroundings disease free?

Examine the Seeing Reason Activity
The Seeing Reason Tool space below represents one team's investigation in this project.

Project Name: Epidemic Outbreak
Question: What are the main causes of epidemic out break?

Seeing Reason Activity - Epidemic Outbreak

When the maps are complete, show maps of different teams from the teacher’s workspace using a projector. Ask the teams to describe their maps and articulate their thinking. Invite feedback for each map from the whole class. After discussion, provide time for the students to revise their maps. Once again revisit the Essential Question, Can our friends be foes?. Discuss about microbes - as friends turning into foes. Get students to share their view points about microbes turning into foes. Ask the students the following questions to trigger their thinking:

  • Who is responsible for this situation?
  • What can be done to change this?

Have students to write their thoughts in the journals and get some of them to share with the entire class. Review student journals and have individual discussions with students if required based on their journal entries.

Role Playing – Stage 4
Ask students to recall their journal entries regarding the Essential Question and introduce the Unit Question, How can I contribute to improving health conditions in my neighbouring villages?. Provide a brief overview of the health conditions in the neighbouring villages and introduce the project using a project introductory presentation (ppt). Present the scenario to the students where they would be role-playing as junior microbiologists who would be collaborating with the local health centers of neighbouring villages with an aim to spread scientific awareness among villagers and share the measures to be taken by them to control the spread of microbial diseases. Sensitize the students to the fact that people need to be educated to prevent the microbial diseases. Provide time to the students to ponder on the Unit Question.

Divide students into groups so that each group has 8 students and allot villages to the groups. Orient about the field visit to the villages and send out parent’s permission letter. Assign responsibilities to the students in each group as per the following guidelines:

  • 1st set of 4 students from each group - To visit the assigned village and using project microbes data sheet 1 (doc), complete the check list for locality study and questionnaire for interaction with village sarpanch (leaders).
  • 2nd set of 4 students from each group - To visit the assigned village and using project microbes data sheet 2 (doc) complete the check list for study of the local health center and questionnaire for interaction with 3 patients in health center.

Discuss the two data sheets with the students and share guidelines with them for the field trip. Collaborate with teachers to accompany students to the villages. Get the students to visit the villages and carry out their responsibilities by collaborating with local community health centres. During the field trip encourage students to note down their reflections in the journals as well. When students return from their field trip have the students get back in their original groups and discuss their individual experiences and share the information they collected on their data sheet.

Group Presentation
Share with the students the multimedia presentation rubric (doc) to guide their planning and creation of their presentation. Discuss the different criteria and help the students to understand the expectations. Get them to collate the data collected, analyse the data and prepare the outline for the presentations to be used in the villages. While preparing the outline, encourage students to revisit the Unit Question: How can I contribute to improving health conditions in my neighbouring villages?. Review the work of the students and provide feedback and approve the outline of the presentations. Have the student teams develop their presentations with the required speaker notes. Remind them of their role as microbiologists and that their purpose of their presentations is to inform the villagers about the measures to be taken to control the spread of microbial diseases. Get the students to practice their presentations in small groups before they present to the villagers.

Grand Finale – Stage 5
As students complete their presentations, finalise arrangements for the student interaction with the villagers. Role-playing as junior microbiologists encourage students to collaborate with community health center officials to spread scientific awareness among villagers and speak about the measures to be taken by villagers to control the spread of microbial diseases. Students present their multimedia presentation (ppt) to the community and talk about their study and findings in the village evening schools for farmers. Also with the help of the village leaders and the doctors arrange for a health camp and a community cleaning drive. Get the students to announce the dates to the villagers while sharing the presentations. Assess student work using the presentation rubric.

As a culmination activity, revisit the Essential Question Can our friends be our foes? and get the students to relate to the question from different angles, starting from the fascinating world of microbes, their immense use to mankind, their potential to invade humans with deadly diseases, preventive and corrective measures of healthy living conditions so that micro-organisms and humans co-exist. Ask students to write an in-class essay bringing out their reflections and incorporating specific information from their own presentations and those of their classmates answering the Essential Question: Can our friends become our foes?.

Prerequisite Skills
Conceptual Knowledge

  • Knowledge structure of cell and cell organelles and their functions
  • Understanding of interactions of living beings
  • Basic knowledge of common diseases, like common cold, rabies, viral respiratory infections etc

Technological Skills

  • Basic use of computers
  • Creating Microsoft PowerPoint* presentation
  • Browsing the Internet
  • Collecting and analyzing information from Internet
  • Checking authenticity of information they collect
  • Using online tools, learning online working environment

Differentiated Instruction
Resource Student

Additional support and scaffolds are provided to resource students for creating story board, interacting with doctors, collecting information from website and special time is allotted by the teacher to enhance conceptual knowledge on microbes.

Gifted Student
Gifted students are given the task of report writing on the project outcome and present the multimedia presentation to villagers in a simple and impressive ways during the evening schools.

This project idea has been developed by Mr. Sharanbasayya. A team of teachers expanded the plan into the example you see here.


At a Glance

Grade Level: 9-10
Subject(s): Environmental Science, Social Studies, Biology
Topic: Microbes
Higher-Order Thinking Skills: Debate, Analyze, Evaluate, Effective Communication, Self Direction and Collaboration
Key Learnings:  Introduction to Microbes, Classification of Microbes, Structure and Function of Microbes, Growth, Nutrient Requirements, Reproduction of Microbes, Harmful and Useful Microbes, Diseases Caused by Microbes, Control of Microbial Diseases
Time Needed: 25 class periods, 40 minutes each

Things You Need